Today Tuszyn is a town of about 7,000 inhabitants, located about 13 miles south of Łódź, in central Poland. Jews are thought to have first arrived there in the 17th century. During the 19th century, the Jewish population of Tuszyn more than tripled, as it did in many towns in the region, reaching 1,248 in 1882. By then, this thriving Jewish community, including many followers of Hasidism, had already established a synagogue, a hospital, and three prayer houses. In the 1930s Jews represented approximately 40% of the population.
Some pre-war memories of Tuszyn, dictated by a Shoah (Holocaust), survivor before his death: Some of our close relatives were farmers living in Tuszyn Las, about twenty kilometers outside Łódź. They were very Orthodox and had at least fifteen children. Every summer we would vacation there. We would run in the orchards, swim in the lake, and they were also traders of horses. They gave us a cottage to spend two months in during the vacation. My father would stay a few days, then go back to the city. We would chase cows, ride horses, milk cows, we did some work but we loved it. I also befriended other Jewish kids from the village. Every Friday we went to the mikva, and Saturday morning we had a special meal called chulent; you put it in at night and take it out at 12:00 in the afternoon fully baked. The family also owned a lake and in the wintertime they used to cut up the ice and cover it with sawdust, and in the summer they would sell it. We had a wonderful time there.
During the Shoah, Tuszyn's Jews were deported to the town of Srock, then to the ghetto in nearby Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland's first ghetto, where the majority of inhabitants were deported to Treblinka and killed.
The cemetery of the Jewish community had been established in an adjacent area called Tuszyn-Las (Tuszyn forest) and was destroyed during the war. Until recently, gravestones could still be found in different parts of the city, having been used as building materials. But now, even these reminders of Tuszyn's former Jewish community are gone. The cemetery itself is overgrown and unmarked.
Steps away is a large, decrepit swimming pool, part of a recreation center built for the Communist police in the 50's, on the larger area of land (red area on map below) once owned by the Jewish community. Although the current cemetery area (upper left square) has no visible matzevot remaining, there is reason to believe matzevot were used in the construction of this swimming pool. Perhaps someday they will be returned.
Despite this depressing state of loss and neglect, a school teacher in Tuszyn began making inquiries about this forgotten Jewish cemetery, driven with a passion to recover the missing history of his town and to properly commemorate it. A partnership soon developed with a Jewish descendant whose family had once lived in Tuszyn. The project now has the enthusiastic support of the Mayor of Tuszyn, the Rabbi and leaders of Jewish community of Łódź who own the cemetery, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Primary School #1 in Tuszyn, and the School of Dialogue.
Our goal is to raise $27,000. Initial plans include clearing vegetation, building a fence with an open gate to invite community engagement, creating informational signs and paths, and one or more memorial stones. Your donations will not only honor and protect this sacred place, but build bridges of understanding and inspire a new generation.